The tales of yore and of valiant heroes is a renown one across history. Noble deeds, dastardly dictators, money and power as the epicentre of evil... It's an easy to grasp pattern. And of these tales, many a legend is born! No more so legendary than the daring Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest! With his band of Merry Men, they daringly saved the people of Nottingham from the Sheriff's forces and unfair taxes. Steal from the rich and give it to the poor was their mantra! And the stories always ended with him saving the day... so it'd be a real shame if he weren't around, right? Enter Rescuing Robin Hood by Castillo Games, a game where you are the Merry Men taking on the Sheriff's forces to save locals, gather a force of fighters, and save Robin Hood, all within five days!
Rescuing Robin Hood is a light, cooperative deck builder which plays in under 20 minutes per player. You can play as a band of up to five players, but can also take the game on solo. The setup differs based on player count, but the routine is always similar. Take out guards to save locals and enhance your repertoire of cards. Work together to save the most valuable villagers. Amass a force strong enough (and of enough quality) to storm the castle, take on a whole battalion and rescue Robin Hood! Then, as a bonus, take on some more minions before defeating the Sheriff himself!
To kick-off, you select the setup cards based on the player count. You then deal two Merry Men cards to all players - each player keeps one to play as and discards the rest. Then all players are dealt with eight normal villager cards. Finally, players all take cubes representing the four stats within the game. Now you're ready to play!
Playing the Game
Rescuing Robin Hood runs over a sequence of "days", represented by rounds. To start a day, players must set up the guards and villagers being held prisoner. The Sheriff's forces are facedown initially, with one face up at the end of a row. Players must also draw a hand of four cards from their eight and adjust their personal stats accordingly. Players then take turns to make two attacks against rows of enemies, using two different stats. The game has four stats consistent across all cards: stealth, wit, brawn and jolliness.
At the end of every day, any villagers saved can be claimed by players to be added to their decks. These go into that player's discard pile. Any villagers not saved are added to a pile near Robin Hood - these are imprisoned alongside the brave hero! Any villagers unclaimed (as in rejected by all players) are put in a separate pile. This is Sherwood Forest and shows the villagers saved but unused in battle.
On the second and fourth days, players must reduce their card count back down to eight. Players choose the cards they keep and add unwanted ones to Sherwood Forest. On the fifth and final day, players choose their best four cards as their dream team and storm the castle! To do this, they must breach the castle's walls, take on many soldiers and get to Robin Hood! Should they succeed within their turns, they win and can take on the Sheriff as a bonus. If not, the noble hero is executed at the end of the day and all players lose!
The first three stats on card orient around a players ability to reduce the Sheriff's force's numbers and jolliness is used to increase another stat. Stealth is used by selecting specific guards to target and defeating them by having more stealth than they do collectively. Once revealed, they are either defeated and removed or left face up (should the attack fail). Wit is done through taking on guards one at a time, starting with the face-up one. A player chooses whether to continue the witty ploy with the next guard before revealing the next to them. Should the collective wit of all guards revealed exceed the wit of the player, the attack fails and all guards removed during that attack are returned. Finally, brawn is an all-out assault where a player reveals all the guards and compares collective brawn.
It is worth noting that both unused brawn and jolliness are transferred to the next player within that round. Stealth and wit are not transferable. This means any player's turn that doesn't use either brawn and jolliness will result in the next player increasing these stats with whatever their predecessor had. Finally, some cards also have other specialities associated with them. Villagers may have specialities in cooking, scouting or prayer. These give players tokens to use which have specific, but tremendously helpful, effects. Scouting reveals two-guard cards, cookery either increases a single stat by two or can be saved to the next round as a finger increase, and prayer moves (or even removes) guards against rows.
How It Handles
Rescuing Robin Hood is a wonderfully fun, well presented and superbly thematic deck builder. Managing to make an engaging cooperative game is tricky, an engaging deck builder with true character is no small feat either. Attempting both is truly challenging! Despite this mountain of a mechanics to combine within the theme, this game nails it. Aesthetically, mechanically, and within its execution.
Working As A Ragtag Band
The game forces cooperation for success. Which sounds a weird thing to say with a cooperative game, as surely cooperation always means a cooperative win/loss, right? Well... This here's a great example of how working together can really make or break a play. Our experience is that we can have a hero in our team when playing cooperative games. One person who takes it upon themselves to dominate play and snatch victory up. The effort was together, but the victory was really theirs. In Rescuing Robin Hood, there's no room for a renegade. You either work together to dominate the Sheriff's forces, or you fail as a disorganised band of misfits.
There's something uniquely attractive about having to manage your resources for someone else's benefit. It's not like where you do something to open up something for someone else... It's more about passing on power to ensure they can dominate the field. You'll still need to manage rows and have to pick and choose your battles, but inevitably you'll have to decide as a group how to proceed to best succeed. We often had plays where we'd move soldiers to one row, bank up all our brawn and take out trickier guards as necessary before unleashing the pain! It was a thing of beauty to behold: imagining an eclectic group of peasants muscling a group of guards into submission.
Having stats that didn't carry over made it contextually obvious on how to tackle the groups of guards. Having a tonne of brawn didn't mean you'd want to go full hulk smash on a group of guards. Robin Hood was renown for his wit and intelligence, not his ability to defeat 23 guards with a single punch. It's always best to pick and choose when to take out enemies. Smart team plays will always win here. And if that means spending all your stealth on one nasty looking guard, so be it!
From Zeroes to Heroes!
Deckbuilding is often a game of balance - remove the wheat from the chaff as it were. As gameplay progresses in your normal deck builder, you'll get no end of bulk you're hoping to hit a combo with, only to receive trash you acquired for points or to upset the opposition. What's more is the 625 cards you end up with once you've got that sweet spot combo, meaning the deck is unmanageable and unruly. So does Rescuing Robin Hood suffer from this ailment? Absolutely not!
Your cards are representative of people rescued by your heroic escapades. You pick and choose who should join you accordingly and create a deck of only eight cards every other round. Any excess (rubbish villagers) go to Sherwood Forest. It's a wonderfully built system that works, and works well! The need to cooperate comes in heavily here too, as when removing villagers, you may want to discuss who's removing what values and why. Discarding brawn heavy cards may seem foolhardy to some, but May contextually benefit the group's collective set up. You're a band of Merry Men, after all. Cooperation is key!
There's a lovely plethora of cards across the game which have a balance of stats across them. No card too powerful, no peasant too useless. With that though, you've got to remember that these folk won't always be as easy to acquire as wanted. The cards come in four tiers: standard, bronze, silver and gold. Standard cards are what make up your initial hands. After that, the tiers speak for themselves. But also the forces blocking you from acquiring these treasures. A gold villager will be stacked with guards, whereas a bronze may have the village idiot in armour somewhere in his vicinity. Whether you best these thugs or fail is down to your use of your villagers acquired, as a team.
The Prettiest Merry Man
The game's aesthetics are charming and solid throughout. There's a real charm to the visuals presented and the execution is consistent. We'd even push it to whimsical! Rescuing Robin Hood's art style is eye-catching and presented in a friendly and harmless way, whilst never removing the feel of the characters being a ragtag bunch fighting the evil Sheriff. There's real attention to detail across all the cards, and a wonderfulness to the naming of the villagers too. At first, it appears silly. Then it's funny. Then you're excited to see Moise Onnover is on the table - both for the pun and stats!
Did anything not appeal? Aesthetically, no. The game oozed theme and the imagery was lighthearted enough to fit nicely into the "Robin Hood and his Merry Men galavanting across a Nottinghamshire". Inoffensive, accessible and enjoyable. Mechanically? The cubes alone annoyed us. Tracking stats with cubes wasn't the worst thing in the world, but one we didn't enjoy. We acknowledge fully that this is a prototype and subject to change, but it just felt fiddly. Remove that, slap in a dial or four, and you've got a knockout game for us!
We like deck builders and cooperative games. We LOVED Rescuing Robin Hood! The ease of access, freedom to communicate, control over one's actions with the repercussion of not helping someone else, the risk actions held! It was all so perfect and worked in such a superb way. If you're one for cooperative games, deck builders with unique ideas, or games with solid themes, this one is for you!